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Time Warner Accused of Exaggerating for Merger
by Chris Fry
Courthouse News Service
Friday, December 11, 2015 9:31 AM PT
Read the full article at: http://www.courthousenews.com/2015/12/11/time-warner-accused-of-exaggerating-for-merger.htm
HACKENSACK, N.J. (CN) – Aiming to boost its stock for an upcoming merger, Time Warner Cable fired workers who resisted inflating subscriber numbers, five ex-employees claim in court.
The lawsuit filed in Bergen County Superior Court comes seven months after Charter Communications announced a plan to buy Time Warner Cable in a cash-and-stock deal that would make it the second-largest Internet and cable company in America.
Time Warner Cable shareholders approved the company’s $56 billion takeover by Charter Communications on Sept. 21.
Meanwhile the five recently fired Time Warner employees now suing the company estimate that the Time Warner and Charter Communications merger is “worth approximately $79 billion.” Their complaint is the Top Download for Courthouse News on Friday.
All former direct sales supervisors or managers of field sales at Time Warner, the five fired workers say that Time Warner sales reps were on the front lines of the fraud, but that encouragement for the practice came from higher-ranking executives.
The plaintiff workers claim to have a January 2015 email from Chris Van Name, the executive vice president of sales channels, that “specifically instructed sales representatives of TWC to ‘pull out all the stops’ and ‘get sales at any cost’ to ‘increase’ the volume of sales.”
Suing in Bergen County Superior Court, the employees say sales reps facilitated the fraud by creating “multiple TWC service accounts at the same location … under identities of various people living at the same location.”
They also created accounts “under incorrect or false social security numbers” and “under identities of people who were no longer living at said location,” the Dec. 1 complaint states.
Other times, employees created accounts under the names of people “whose accounts had previously been frozen or terminated due to ‘non-payment,’ but who still maintained [TWC’s] cable service equipment,” according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs say senior human resources generalist Marielys Mejia sent an email in November 2014, telling employees that Time Warner Cable would not suspend anyone accused of creating fraudulent accounts.
Behind the drive to create fraudulent subscribers, Time Warner hoped “to falsely inflate stock prices for the benefit of a potential merger with Charter Communications,” according to the complaint.
The plaintiff workers claim that they flagged the fraudulent “non-pay” accounts on several occasions, but that their supervisors “failed to properly investigate, address or report” the illegal activity.
One of the plaintiffs, Gregory Klein of Staten Island, N.Y., says sales director Lynden Armogan went so far as to mock him at a company dinner in March 2015.
“You should stop being so damn conservative all the time,” Armogan said, according to the complaint, allegedly telling Klein that “there is no need to do everything by the book” in front of co-workers.
Frederick Fischer, a plaintiff hailing from Somerset, N.J., contends that he attended a mandatory meeting in May 2015 where Armogan and Senior Vice President Blaine Altaffer “instructed the employees present to increase subscriber numbers so stock prices would rise within the next 120 days.”
With the plaintiffs vocally objecting to the “illegal, fraudulent activity,” they say Altaffer even threatened Fischer “by hostilely stating to him this is ‘a career making time for you, don’t blow it.'”
Another plaintiff, Nicholas Warren of Fort Lee, N.J., says he inquired in March 2105 about Time Warner installing a computer system that would prevent the creation of fraudulent customer accounts. He says Armogan “threatened” him by saying, “Get out of here, you should not be concerned with this.”
That May, Warren allegedly informed Armogan again that the company should have a computer system in place to verify customer identities and prevent the fake accounts. He says Armogan “angrily” told him such a move would compromise sales.
“Get out of here and never bring this up again,” Armogan said, according to the complaint.
Aside from the accusations related to inflated accounts, plaintiff Raymond Bailey, of Hackensack, N.J., also alleges a count of sexual harassment.
Bailey says he attended a Time Warner dinner at which Armogan began “rubbing his buttocks up against [his] leg at the event in front of his co-workers and wife.”
Armogan “continuously and systematically made romantic and sexual passes” at Bailey following the incident, the complaint states.
Time Warner fired the five workers behind the lawsuit on Sept. 10, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs, three of whom sued with their wives, seek damages for retaliation under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act. They are represented by Rosemarie Arnold of Fort Lee.
Time Warner spokesman Keith Cocozza did not return an inquiry regarding the lawsuit.
Each of the supervisors mentioned in the article is a defendant to the action, which takes aim at a total of 12 individuals plus Time Warner and its corporate affiliates.
Sanofi Whistleblower Alleges Company Attorneys Destroyed Documents
by Mark Terry
November 23, 2015 7:00:01 AM
Read the full article at: http://www.biospace.com/News/sanofi-whistleblower-alleges-company-attorneys/400601
As a whistleblower lawsuit against Paris-based Sanofi (SNY) steams ahead, ex-paralegal Diane Ponte alleges that Sanofi lawyers destroyed documents rather than provide them in other legal cases.
Ponte has accused Sanofi, among other things, of shifting $34 million in kickbacks and “incentive payments” to doctors and pharmacies to influence them to prescribe its diabetes drugs. Ponte claims she uncovered the kickbacks in March 2013 while reviewing nine contracts while she was working at the company’s New Jersey headquarters. The nine contracts totaled $34 million.
Seven of the nine contracts were with Accenture, two were with Deloitte. She alleges that these were direct incentives from Sanofi to physicians, hospitals and pharmacies to illegally influence them to prescribe Sanofi’s diabetes drug over other companies’ products. In addition, she alleges that Chris Viehbacher’s firing in October 2014 was in part due to the allegations.
Ponte’s lawsuits also states that when she resisted signing off on the agreement, she was subjected to a “severe and pervasive pattern of workplace retaliation.” She was fired on October 29, 2014. In her complaint, Ponte says her supervisors referred to her as a “ditz,” “dingbat,” “lunatic” and “scatterbrain.”
Ponte’s attorney, Rosemarie Arnold, in October 2014, told Bloomberg Businessweek, “The acts surrounding her termination from the company were blatantly related to her whistle-blowing activity. She was a model employee before that.”
Now Ponte has filed an affidavit in Newark, New Jersey court, stating, “In the course of my working in the Sanofi litigation department, I became personally aware of many instances in which documents were deliberately destroyed by Sanofi attorneys to avoid turning over said documents in discovery.”
Although Sanofi has indicated that it does not comment on pending litigation, the company last year referred to Ponte as a “disgruntled former employee who is opportunistically attacking our company,” and further said her accusations of employment law violations were “without merit.”
The company is being a little more harsh in their wording over this most recent allegation, with Sanofi attorney John Bennet saying her claims were “false, scandalous and unsupported by any evidence.”
However, despite attempts by Sanofi’s attorneys to remove that particular paragraph from the affidavit, Essex County Judge Michelle Hollar-Gregory refused.
Further allegations include that Sanofi’s North American general counsel, Robert DeBerardine, and another company attorney, Edward Berg, were not licensed in New Jersey to practice law during at least part of their tenure at Sanofi. This is required by state Supreme Court ruling for in-house counsel.
Sanofi has also requested that Ponte or her attorneys return company documents that they possess. Sanofi’s Bennett argued in court that Ponte had stolen the documents and that they were not subject to attorney-client privilege. One of Ponte’s lawyers, Chris Dubin, retorted, “It’s not true!” referring to the theft. Rosemarie Arnold, Ponte’s lead attorney, did say that many of the papers were not subject to attorney-client privilege because they had been seen by many people not in Sanofi’s legal department. Judge Hollar-Gregory has overruled Sanofi’s requests.
At least some of those documents include an email from one of Sanofi’s in-house lawyers, Berg, written on March 21, 2013. The email, which is in court records, refers to his quick review of Accenture contracts, which actually expresses concern over the contracts, saying it “has almost no meaningful deliverables, is poorly constructed and incorrectly mentions Regulatory Review. … My initial overall take is that the contract violates almost every principal of financial stewardship and good business practices, with few deliverables, an outlandishly short time frame, no consideration as to the clear legal issues in these types of engagements with customers.”
Despite those apparent concerns, Ponte alleges Sanofi insisted on approval.
Sanofi whistleblower lawsuit kicks into higher gear
by Dan Mangan
Friday, 20 Nov 2015 | 2:38 PM ET
Read the full article at: http://www.cnbc.com/2015/11/20/sanofi-whistleblower-lawsuit-kicks-into-higher-gear.html
A whistleblowing former paralegal at drug giant Sanofi is now claiming she was aware of “many instances” where Sanofi lawyers destroyed documents to avoid turning them over to opponents in prior legal cases.
Ex-Sanofi paralegal Diane Ponte’s new allegation comes in an affidavit she filed in her pending lawsuit against the company.
Ponte’s suit, filed last year, claims she learned of an alleged scheme at Sanofi to pay more than $30 million in kickbacks to promote the company’s diabetes drugs. The suit came a year after the France-based drug company already agreed to pay more than $100 million to the U.S. federal government to settle other claims related to alleged kickbacks to doctors, and seven months after Sanofi agreed to pay a nearly $40 million fine in Germany in connection with two employees who were convicted there of paying bribes to boost drug sales.
“Prior to my last position with Sanofi, I had been working in the Sanofi litigation department for approximately seven years,” Ponte wrote in her affidavit in Newark, New Jersey, court. “In the course of my working in the Sanofi litigation department, I became personally aware of many instances in which documents were deliberately destroyed by Sanofi attorneys to avoid turning over said documents in discovery.”
The term “discovery” refers to the process in which opponents in civil litigation exchange documents and other evidence that are relevant to issues in their case, and which could affect the outcome of that case.
Sanofi, when contacted by CNBC about ongoing issues related to Ponte’s case, said, “Sanofi does not comment on pending litigation.” Last year, when Ponte’s case was filed, it referred to her as a “disgruntled former employee who is opportunistically attacking our company,” and called her allegations of employment law violations “without merit.”
However, Sanofi attorney John Bennett recently argued in legal motions that Ponte’s claim of document destruction was “false, scandalous and unsupported by any evidence.”
Bennett also said that Ponte, while working at Sanofi, had never reported any such document destruction to the company’s internal complaints system despite that she would have had an obligation to do so under Sanofi’s Code of Business Conduct.
But Essex County Judge Michelle Hollar-Gregory refused during a hearing last week to strike the paragraph in Ponte’s affidavit that alleges the document destruction by Sanofi’s lawyers.
Court filings reveal other new details in the case.
Ponte’s affidavit says that Sanofi’s North American general counsel, Robert DeBerardine, and another lawyer at the company, Edward Berg, were not licensed to practice law in New Jersey for at least part of the time they were working as lawyers at Sanofi. That’s despite Sanofi’s North American headquarters, where Ponte had worked, being located in that state, and despite a state Supreme Court rule requiring in-house counsel at a company to obtain at least a limited license if they want to practice law in the state.
Sanofi claims in court papers that the two attorneys’ law license status isn’t relevant to Ponte’s case, particularly since they were licensed to practice elsewhere in the United States. Sanofi also claims that DeBerardine applied for limited in-house counsel status in April 2013 and had it granted just last month. Berg’s own June 2015 application for that status “is currently pending,” the company said.
Ponte’s suit filed last December claims that she was fired in September 2014 in retaliation for bringing the alleged kickback scheme to light, which led to an internal probe at Sanofi. She also claims that Sanofi’s board fired then-CEO Christopher Viehbacher in October 2014 “in part” because Viehbacher “was involved in the aforesaid illegal and/or fraudulent activity.”
The suit from Ponte alleges she was pressured in March 2013 to approve nine pending contracts Sanofi had with Accenture and Deloitte worth a total of $34 million. Her suit says that despite that she was being asked to review the contracts’ legality, she learned they had actually been executed by Sanofi executive Raymond Godleski four months beforehand.
Her suit claims she determined that the contracts involved illegal incentives from the three companies to “induce customers, including physicians, hospitals and/or retail pharmacy programs such as Walgreens and Rite Aid to [among other things] influence the prescribing of drugs and/or improperly ‘switch’ from selling other manufacturers’ drugs … to selling Sanofi drugs, in violation of the aforesaid Federal healthcare laws.”
Such alleged kickbacks or incentives are illegal because they can encourage the prescription of drugs covered by federal Medicare and Medicaid insurance programs, which in turn could mean that those programs end up paying more in reimbursements than they otherwise would have.
In 2012, Sanofi agreed to pay the federal government $109 million to resolve allegations that the company violated the federal False Claims Act by giving physicians free units of the knee injection Hyalgan in order to induce them to buy and prescribe the drug, in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute.
In March 2013, two ex-Sanofi employees were sentenced by a court in Germany to suspended sentences, and Sanofi was fined 28 million euros ($29.8 million) in connection with a bribery case there. A spokesman for prosecutors told the Reuters news agency that the former employees made illicit payments to a consulting company that was advising a Sanofi client in order to get the client to order more drugs from Sanofi.
“Sanofi was unfairly given preference because of this,” the spokesman told Reuters. A spokesman for Sanofi told that news agency earlier this year that the company had cooperated with the probe and had tightened its compliance system.
Also related to the ongoing case in New Jersey, Judge Hollar-Gregory last week refused, as least for now, to order Ponte or her lawyers to give back to the company documents related to Sanofi that are in their possession.
A CNBC reporter was present when Sanofi’s lawyer Bennett argued in court that many if not all of the documents are subject to attorney-client privilege, and that Ponte had stolen the documents.
“It’s not true!” angrily protested one of Ponte’s lawyers, Chris Stueben, when Bennett referred to Ponte’s alleged “stealing” of company information.
Ponte’s lead lawyer, Rosemarie Arnold, said that many of the documents would not be subject to attorney-client privilege because they were seen by people not connected to Sanofi’s legal department, as well as for other reasons.
“She was bullied by them,” Arnold said of Sanofi, which is accused in Ponte’s suit of creating a hostile work environment after she made her claims of wrongdoing there. “And now they’re trying to bully her some more.”
Among the documents that Ponte had in her possession is an email from one of Sanofi’s in-house lawyers, Berg, written on March 21, 2013, after he was asked to review some contracts that had been flagged by Ponte as having potential legal issues.
Berg’s email, which is in court records, has the subject line “contracts with Accenture.”
Berg, writing that he was giving “a relatively quick review,” said in the email that “the contract has almost no meaningful deliverables, is poorly constructed and incorrectly mentions Regulatory Review, with no mention of Legal review, when in fact the issues are most likely to create legal risk (kickback) rather than regulatory.”
“My initial overall take is that the contract violates almost every principal of financial stewardship and good business practices, with few deliverables, an outlandishly short time frame, no consideration as to the clear legal issues in these types of engagements with customers,” Berg wrote.
Despite Berg’s apparent concern, Ponte alleges the company pushed for approval of the contracts.
Accenture and Deloitte are not named as defendants in Ponte’s lawsuit. Accenture declined CNBC’s request for comment when Ponte’s suit was filed last year. Deloitte said at that time that “we are confident our contracts and services were entirely appropriate.”
CNBC also has spoken to a former Sanofi contractor, who on Tuesday of this week described how then-Sanofi executive Godleski allegedly pressured her to enter incorrect codes for purchase orders so that the companies that were the subject of the questionable contracts, Accenture and Deloitte, could start getting paid.
The ex-contractor, Jean Kazimir, said Godleski, who is named as a defendant in Ponte’s lawsuit, wanted the companies to get paid even though the contracts hadn’t been approved by Sanofi’s legal department, and despite that the purchase orders would have been for goods instead of for the services that were detailed in the contracts.
“I knew something wasn’t right,” Kazimir told CNBC. She said she had told Godleski he would need to put his request in writing, but that he never did so.
Kazimir’s account is also cited in a federal class action lawsuit filed in Manhattan by shareholders against Sanofi. That suit alleges the company and then-CEO Viehbacher misled investors and inflated Sanofi’s stock price by touting sales growth of its diabetes drugs “while omitting disclosure of the illegal practices used to achieve those sales.” Those alleged illegal practices include the same ones at the center of Ponte’s state court lawsuit.
Sanofi “funneled tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars in disguised payments to consultants Accenture and Deloitte, which according to whistleblowers served as middlemen in a scheme to induce pharmaceutical retailers and hospitals to favor Sanofi’s diabetes drugs over competing drugs from Novo Nordisk,” the Manhattan federal court suit claims. The whistleblowers are identified in the suit as Ponte and Kazimir.
Godleski’s lawyer declined to comment on Kazimir’s allegations.
Sanofi has asked a federal judge to dismiss the shareholders’ lawsuit, arguing that the plaintiffs have failed to lay out sufficient legal grounds for their action.
Attorney Rosemarie Arnold has been designated as a “Super Lawyer” by “Super Lawyers” magazine for every year of its publication – for the past 11 years running, from 2005 through 2015:
- Rosemarie Arnold – 2015 Super Lawyer; winner of Litigator’s award; Top 1% of Lawyers in Nation
- Rosemarie Arnold – 2014 Super Lawyer
- Rosemarie Arnold – 2013 Super Lawyer
- Rosemarie Arnold – 2012 Super Lawyer
- Rosemarie Arnold – 2011 Super Lawyer
- Rosemarie Arnold – 2010 Super Lawyer
- Rosemarie Arnold – 2009 Super Lawyer
- Rosemarie Arnold – 2008 Super Lawyer
- Rosemarie Arnold – 2007 Super Lawyer
- Rosemarie Arnold – 2006 Super Lawyer
- Rosemarie Arnold – 2005 Super Lawyer
A “super lawyer” and super mom
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Last updated: Tuesday August 11, 2009, 2:30 PM
BY KARL DE VRIES OF TOWN JOURNAL
A self-described “slumdog millionaire” who grew up in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood to become one of the top personal injury attorneys in New Jersey, Saddle River Board of Education member Rosemarie Arnold is used to multitasking.
As the head of two firms comprised of 13 lawyers and 40 employees, Arnold has been named by New Jersey Super Lawyers magazine as one of the top 100 attorneys in the state every year since the listings began in 2003. A single mother of two Wandell children, Arnold has appeared on multiple television networks such as Fox News and MSNBC, delivering legal analysis over the past several years and, perhaps most notably, represented Joran van der Sloot in his civil case against the family of Natalee Holloway.
For Town Journal, Arnold described the beginnings of her 23-year career, the experience of being a talking head on TV and what she brings to the school board as a member serving in her second term.
Q: What made you interested in becoming an attorney?
A: I’ve always felt like I had to fight for everything and negotiate for everything, so I wanted to learn how to do it properly.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to practice personal injury law?
A: I got out of law school and I got a job with Christian Steuben’s office, because it was a Fort Lee address and that’s where I lived. I took the job to get my feet wet, and I was doing personal injury defense work, and that’s when I decided I actually wanted to be a lawyer representing the victims who got hurt. My job was to deprive them of their money, but my heart wasn’t there. My heart was to get them the money, because I always had a compassion for humans, so I flipped to the other side and opened up my own firm.
Q: How many cases do you manage at a time now?
A: I oversee 1,000 pending cases, along with the managing partner in this firm, Sheri Breen, who is my second in command. I handle probably about 25 of my own, the top 25.
Q: What makes them the top 25?
A: They’re worth the most money. They’re the most difficult and complex.
Q: Do you find it difficult to manage all of that?
A: No. I find it challenging to manage all of that and be a good mother to my two little girls, but I think I live up to the challenge.
Q: How did you come to represent Joran Van Der Sloot in the Natalee Holloway case?
A: My partner in New York City is Joe Saccopina, and he’s a high-profile criminal attorney. Joran found him on the Internet, from Aruba, and asked him if he could represent him in New York in a civil case that was being filed against him by Beth Holloway. It was a wrongful death case that was filed against him, and I got involved in that because I’m the civil attorney in our firm.
Q: What’s Van Der Sloot like?
A: I don’t know what he’s like now, but when I represented him, he was a devoted student, a respectable son and a confused teenager. I’ve read that he’s changed since then, and he’s done some things I wouldn’t condone. Unfortunately for him, his personality became the boy that was accused of killing Natalee Holloway. Eventually, there was no evidence that he had harmed her in any way.
Q: How many times have you appeared on TV?
A: I’d say about 100.
Q: Is it becoming old hat by now or is it still pretty cool?
A: I enjoy sharing my legal knowledge and experiences with everyone. Most of the TV appearances that I do have to do with cases I’m involved in. But sometimes I’m called in as an expert to comment on other cases.
Q: Do you get nervous before appearing on a national show?
A: No, but I’m much more comfortable talking about my own cases than commenting on other people’s cases.
Q: What compels you to serve on the school board?
A: I’m a public school-educated person, and I believe in the quality of education in our town. I think I bring something extra as a board of education member having a license to practice law, because there are a lot of legal issues that face the board on a daily basis. While I’m not the board’s attorney and I never act as the board’s attorney, I think like a lawyer because I am one.
Unconditional Love – Heals
Social Life magazine – August 2012
by Christopher London, Esq.
On a warm July afternoon, I stroll into Sagg Main Store in Sagaponack to grab a sandwich. At the counter, like a shameless gawking school boy, I notice a casually-attired, gorgeous, petite, tan brunette, with a lean, well-toned figure, taut legs, and a posture which suggests a serious fitness regimen. As she places her order for three egg white, bacon and cheese sandwiches, instantly, I recognize the voice and realize it is none other than Super Lawyer and super mom, Rosemarie Arnold, the tireless trial lawyer and victim’s rights advocate.
I met Rosemarie back in the mid 1990’s while I was in the legal headhunting business. There was a buzz about a brilliant trial lawyer in New Jersey who was building a huge reputation for herself and getting multi-million dollar verdicts on cases other lawyers rejected or were too weak in the knees to take to trial. Arnold had emerged as a veritable plaintiff’s prophet or the patron saint of the underdog. Since then, she has developed a reputation as a “courtroom bulldog who won’t be leashed.”
It is rare to catch a free moment with the woman behind the Law Offices of Rosemarie Arnold, the largest personal injury & victim’s rights practices in Bergen County. The “Queen of Torts” now leads a team of experienced trial attorneys and legal staff who offer the same personalized legal representation that Rosemarie became famous for, to families and individuals throughout the tri-state area. Arnold’s highly-referred law firm offers an effective voice to victims of serious accidents, sexual assault, and discrimination in the workplace involving age, race, sex, disability, national origin or religious bias. When the Certified Trial Attorney is not tending to her prolific and high profile case load or serving as a super mom at home, Rosemarie is a sought-out legal expert who has been solicited to offer her expertise to various media outlets including the New York Times, New York Post, and Newsday as well as NBC News, CBS News, Fox News, The Today Show, and a Current Affair.
Arnold’s climb to the top of the legal profession had rather humble beginnings. Her father, who was a physician, passed away when she was five. Her mother, who was a teacher in the New York City public school system, raised 6 kids in a two-bedroom tenement with one bathroom in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. While she may have the mental DNA for success, she is a self-made woman of the highest order, whose reputation was built the old-fashioned way: dogged work serving the interests of one client at a time, and a relentless commitment to honing all elements of her craft. It is rare to find a lawyer so proficient, with such a strong and disciplined work ethic, a Zen-like strategic sense who is also filled with such compassion, professionalism, and understanding. How do I know? Simply put, she has represented me and those close to me with the greatest degree of care and proficiency. Ask Rosemarie about her impeccable standing with her clients, judges, legal experts, and the reverence she has from her adversaries. ”We brag about the client’s satisfaction, not the successful verdicts or privately negotiated settlements.” To her clients, she is the irreplaceable equivalent of having Socrates, Clarence Darrow, and Mother Theresa in a suit. Yes, she is that good.
Rosemarie has a tremendous sense of humor. In that regard, and as evidence that she does not take herself too seriously, she has a commercial running on NY1 starring 77-year-old identical twins, Iris and Fran, who happen to be her mother and aunt. In addition, one of her firm’s many URLs is suethesleazebag.com.
We start talking about success, the type of success that allows you to spend your summers on Sagg Pond Court in Sagaponack. I ask her what is the key to her success. “My life is fruitful and fulfilling. I give unconditional love to those who mean anything to me. I give that same love to my craft and my clients.” The woman who is writing a book entitled “Sue Unto Others” adds that “understanding your adversary’s perspective is critical to the amicable resolution of a case. If a reasonable resolution does not happen, you are better prepared to go for the jugular and dismantle your opponent.”
After that final nugget, Rosemarie jumps onto her Specialized S-Works Roubaix bicycle to bring egg white sandwiches to her children on the beach. As she notices me admiring her perfectly-toned Jewess form before pulling away, she reminds me that she deserves her ageless fitness-model form because she rides at least 20-25 miles per day and takes notes from a mutual friend, Dr. Mehmet Oz, for whose Health Corps Annual Gala she usually serves as a dinner chair.
A courtroom bulldog who won’t be leashed
The Record (Hackensack, NJ)
August 17, 2003
By PETER POCHNA, STAFF WRITER
Rosemarie Arnold says personal injury law is not “about greedy litigation,” but rather, “making sure the people who need help get help.”
Silence gripped the courtroom as Rosemarie Arnold paused for a moment while describing the plight of her client seated in a wheelchair.
Arnold sniffled, wiping a tear from her eye.
Then she moved in for the kill.
The health club pool in which her client broke his neck was “a ticking time bomb,” the Fort Lee attorney told the jurors.
“It blew up Mr. Lehra’s neck and his arms and his legs. It blew up Mr. Lehra’s manhood,” said Arnold, who wore a tight skirt, high heels, and a look of pained indignation. “It blew up Mr. Lehra’s life and all his hopes and dreams.”
The trial in Hackensack was just getting under way, but the health club owner was clearly in trouble. Within days, before jurors could begin deliberations, Bally’s Total Fitness settled for $1.45 million.
To activists pushing for legal reforms, Arnold represents everything that’s wrong with the justice system: She is a personal injury lawyer who has made millions of dollars for her clients – and herself – by suing doctors, insurance companies, and various kinds of businesses.
Her type is particularly prevalent in New Jersey, which ranks fourth in the nation in lawsuits per capita.
The American Tort Reform Association, among other critics, argues that all that litigation hurts business, drives up insurance costs, puts good doctors out of work, and clogs court dockets with frivolous claims. The association has already won reforms in 11 states and has legislation pending in New Jersey and 20 other states aimed at limiting filings and reducing jury awards.
Although the association portrays her kind as villains, Arnold makes no apologies. She defends her clients with a brash tenacity typified by the license plate on her Audi sedan: “RU NJRD.”
“People think this profession is just about greedy litigation, but it’s really not,” said Arnold, 41, stabbing the air with a long, pink fingernail. “It’s about making sure the people who need help get help.”
Take Eric Myers. Six years ago, he was driving down a road in Point Pleasant when an overloaded asphalt truck swerved into Myers’ lane, crushing his Ford Bronco.
The former assistant manager of Costco in Hackensack has undergone more than 10 surgeries since then, primarily to repair a fractured hip. At one point, an infection in his leg drove his temperature to 106 degrees and left him bathing in tubs of ice and alcohol. Now 35, he walks with a limp, can walk only short distances without resting, and faces more surgery.
Arnold represented Myers in a lawsuit that accused the trucking and paving companies of loading the truck so far beyond capacity that the brakes failed. Following a four-year court battle, Myers last year accepted a $750,000 settlement.
“I’m not a fan of suing anybody, but I needed help getting my life back together,” Myers said. “I had no idea what to do. Rosemarie took me by the hand and led me through the process.”
Arnold runs her 11-attorney firm from a squat, white-stucco building equipped with a $10,000 elevator to help injured clients clear the front steps.
Her work consumes her.
A table in her office is covered with legal documents and diapers it doubles as a changing table for her 1-year-old daughter. A phone message for a colleague is logged in at 4:43 a.m.: Arnold had awakened in the middle of the night with an idea and couldn’t wait until she got to work.
“I get emotionally involved in these cases,” she said. “I do this because I love it. I take care of people. That’s what I’ve done all my life.”
Arnold grew up the eldest of six siblings in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. Her father, an obstetrician, died of cancer when she was 6. She quickly took responsibility for her four sisters and brother.
“She was always very aggressive and always fighting for the underdog,” said her mother, Iris Arnold. “When I told the kids they couldn’t watch TV, she came back that they had six votes and I had one.
“I told her this was not a democracy.”
Arnold graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1986 and began her career helping companies fend off personal injury cases. She didn’t like it.
“It made me feel dirty,” she said.
In 1989, she started her own firm, which now accepts about 400 new cases a year.
Arnold said she takes only legitimate complaints. She criticizes lawsuits that provide fodder for tort reformers – such as the 270-pound Bronx man who sued McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and other fast-food chains last year for selling food that made him obese.
“The rule in this office is we don’t eat fish,” she said. “If a case smells fishy, we don’t do it.”
Of course, her targets think otherwise.
Bally’s Total Fitness aggressively defended itself against the man who broke his neck in their pool in Englewood Cliffs. The company said 32-year-old Imran Lehra of Bergenfield entered the pool after closing time and dove into the 4-foot-deep water despite numerous signs forbidding diving.
“It could not have been clearer as to what the risks were for diving in the pool,” Brian Heermance, Bally’s attorney, told the Hackensack jury. “He should have known better.”
Arnold argued that Lehra fell into the pool after slipping in a puddle that should have been cleared from the pool’s edge. She also said the health club had been told several times that it needed to lock the entrance when the pool area was closed. Five days into the trial, Bally’s settled.
Arnold said such cases protect people from irresponsible business practices – for instance, those involving pharmacies that dispense the wrong medicine or tobacco companies that mislead consumers.
“It’s a litigious society,” she said. “But it keeps people in line.”
Among several high-profile cases Arnold has pending in Bergen County is a lawsuit that accuses Toyota of having faulty seat belts that contributed to the injuries of a 2-year-old girl who was paralyzed in a 1999 accident involving a drunken driver.
Her passion for her clients poured out when Arnold wept as a judge sentenced the driver to five years in prison Aug. 8.
Another case seeks damages from Exxon for the killing of a gas station attendant in Oakland. The suit contends that Exxon’s policies forced the owner to keep the station open all night, leaving the attendant vulnerable to a knife attack at 4 a.m.
Arnold and her firm pocket plenty of money from these cases. By law, they can collect up to one-third of the payout to their clients, a quarter if the client is a minor.
But Arnold said her true reward is on a wall covered with thank-you notes in her office.
One letter contains a poem titled “Justice” from a teenage girl who was injured when her family’s apartment caught fire and the building’s alarm system failed. Arnold got the family a $1.4 million settlement from the landlord.
“Today, I can say the truth was heard. Our stories have been told,” the poem says.
“Those stories that made us cry … And I and my family can go on and live.”
LI dog-attack horror
My son’s ear chewed off: dad
By LAUREL BABCOCK and DAN MANGAN
Last Updated: 3:59 AM, June 5, 2012
Posted: 1:26 AM, June 5, 2012
A Manhattan pediatrician whose 80-pound dog, Archie, is notorious for being “vicious and dangerous” took the pooch to a Long Island elementary school playground — despite signs banning dogs — where it promptly attacked a 6-year-old boy and chewed off his earlobe, a scathing lawsuit charged yesterday.
Then, instead of giving bleeding, screaming Andrew Esposito medical assistance, Dr. Deborah Levine said, “Everything’s going to be fine, It’s no big deal,” recalled Andrew’s dad, Edward Esposito.
Levine had brought the hulking black Labrador mix, Archie, on a leash on May 18 to Philip Sousa Elementary School in Port Washington, LI, where Andrew’s brother was playing a baseball game, Esposito said.
Levine, who is a professor of emergency pediatric medicine at NYU School of Medicine, owns the dog with her urologist husband, Dr. Michael Levine.
Suddenly, “I heard a noise, like something you hear in a bear attack — just a horrible noise,” Esposito recalled.
Esposito, 39, turned to see 45-pound Andrew lying face-down and crying in the dirt — with half of his right ear lying nearby.
Deborah Levine, still holding Archie’s leash, said, “He’ll be fine” — but Andrew wasn’t fine, even after being rushed to St. Francis Hospital and undergoing two hours of surgery, his dad recalled.
“They couldn’t reattach the half that was taken off,” Esposito said. He said his son now faces “many” plastic-surgery procedures.
The still-shaken Andrew since has been kept home from kindergarten — and “thinks his ear is growing back,” his dad said.
Esposito yesterday sued his now-ex-friends in Nassau Supreme Court, claiming the Levines’ recklessness led to Andrew’s permanent injuries.
“This child is going to be significantly disfigured for the rest of his life,” said Esposito’s lawyer, Rosemarie Arnold.
Arnold also said Archie “is known around the neighborhood as having vicious propensities.”
Deborah Levine refused to comment from her Port Washington home.
Additional reporting by Kieran Crowley